The job application is something that becomes pretty familiar to most final-year students and the volume of forms the average graduate completes is quite outstanding. Given that the average form requires around seven questions to be answered in four or five hundred words and that students could write ten forms, the application form can quickly become more of a burden than a dissertation! In fact, a bad application form will usually just result in a potentially very interested applicant closing the browser and going elsewhere.
So how should you navigate the minefield that is the application form?
Make It Simple
Most interview processes are pretty gruelling as it is and time-pushed applicants won’t respond well to complicated, multi-part questions that require hours of technical research. Ask questions that are easily answerable and personal; simple questions like “why did you study your chosen degree subjects?” or “what are you passionate about?” can tell you plenty about a candidate without burdening their time.
Equally, it’s so common for an application form to be hidden away in the bottom corner of a UK-specific website, on a page only accessible if you’ve clicked through the ‘Contact Us’ link. Make it really, really simple to find a form with plenty of cross-links or, be assured, your applicants will give up!
Leave Room for Creativity
So many application forms really stifle the applicants personality and asking questions like “were you a member of any sports teams?” or “detail your work experience below” is both ambiguous and leaves no room for the imagination. In this market, almost every graduate has a wealth of extra-curricular activities to talk about and most will have some work experience.
On the other hand, if your questions are rivalling an Oxbridge entrance interview for abstractness, you need to be prepared for abstract and, possibly, obscure answers. Something like “detail your most rewarding experience at University” will help you glean plenty of concrete information but allows candidates to be a little selective with what they tell you.
Set Out the Parameters
Lots of application forms are ultra-interactive and rely on an embedded system, but there are just as many that are a simple A4 form. Whatever format you chose to use, make sure what you expect is clear. If you leave HTML forms unrestricted and infinitely long, expect 1000 word answers. If you don’t state you want bullet points or a .pdf file of your CV, you won’t get it! Be absolutely clear about these aspects of your form.
Also be very clear on time and deadlines. Set out an absolute final deadline—candidates will work to this—and remember to date everything with the year. Search engines are miraculously good at bringing up old .pdfs and you could find a mixture of prior years documents in your inbox if you’re not careful.
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